Mac Miller - 'Swimming' Album Review
Mac Miller learns to love himself as he swims through vast waters of groovy, funkadelic soul instrumentals with strokes of simply clever intricate lyricism.
Originality8.1
Lyrics8.1
Replay Value8
Instrumentation8.2
Impact7.8
We Liked...
  • The coherence of the project!
  • Fusion of deft rapping with elegant sung vocals!
  • Infectious groove and funk vibes!
We Didn't Like...
  • Lack of a fiery punch that illuminated GOOD:AM
8Overall Score
Reader Rating: (2 Votes)
8.1

Isn’t ‘Swimming’ technically just flying underwater?

 

To me, Mac Miller comes across as one of hip-hop’s most well matured modern sons, who’s trajectory has seen him progress far away from the cheesy, college party rap he burst onto the scene supplying. The suit and tie attire adorning the album artwork depicts the refined, wiser Mac of ‘Swimming‘. Growing through many dark days and battles with inner demons that have been a mainstay feature of his lyricism, listening to ‘Swimming‘ is above all nice; to hear the rapper seemingly in a good place and having reached a bout of self-acceptance. This vibe was draped across ‘GOOD:AM‘ & ‘The Divine Feminine‘ and it’s prominence here shows that was not a short-lasting phase, that Mac really is doing well now.

Despite how well he could channel negative life experiences and that his previously troubling life periods produced some of his more revered work and vastly celebrated projects such as ‘Macadelic‘ and ‘New Faces‘, it should go without saying that its a far better position for him, to be creating music of an upheld quality but from a much brighter place. As a long time fan, being able to listen and feel happy for Mac instead of empathising and feeling his sorrow is infinitely better.

His wordplay is easy to catch and may not require severe dissection as is usually attributed to a ‘lyricist’, yet such perceived simplicity is far more accessible and in this light cleverly done. On ‘Macadelic‘ track ‘America‘ featuring Joey Badass and Casey Veggies, Mac proclaims that he “spent some time just thinkin’, where did that get me? High, more drinkin’” – a direct example of the simple yet clever, very relatable lyrical style he hones. I once remember reading a quote from friend and conspirator Earl Sweatshirt who stated he felt good lyricism was getting across as much as you can in as little words; in this vein Mac would be top of the tree, competing with the likes of Earl.

 

“In my own way, this feel like living

Some alternate reality

And I was drowning, but now I’m Swimming

Through stressful waters to relief”

– Early bars of ‘Come Back to Earth‘; the first track on the album explain the title and exactly where Mac is currently at. The employed theme and narrative of ‘Swimming‘ is one of self-acceptance and light at the end of the tunnel. His fifth studio album finds the Pittsburgh hip-hopper submerged in depths of self-reflection and personal development, aswell as bathing in funkadelic soulful vibes of groove. The prominence of the soul and funk elements dominating the production (embedded most on groovy tracks ‘Ladders‘ & ‘Whats The Use‘) throughout the project is a clear departure from the trap-flavoured beats that gave ‘GOOD:AM‘ (my favourite Miller album) its vibrancy and excitement.

This shift in sound itself signifies growth, as the sound of ‘GOOD:AM‘, embellished with such trap incorporation represents a slightly more juvenile mindset. That tone veered closer to the realm of what’s considered a ‘banger’ for the most part – ‘When In Rome‘ falls precisely into this field. Songs like ‘100 Grandkids‘ hinted at the style ‘Swimming‘ fleshes out and the album can be seen as a natural progression from that.

The Divine Feminine‘ therefore, served as a great bridge between ‘GOOD:AM‘ and ‘Swimming‘, as it leans far more towards the live instrument driven funky production on ‘Swimming‘, yet retained elements that were favoured from ‘GOOD:AM‘. More than anything ‘The Divine Feminine‘ was a brash display of bravery and artistic integrity which ‘Swimming‘ has only furthered as Mac proves he’s more than capable of creating a new palette and isn’t bound down by his previous efforts.

Mac, or Larry Fisherman rather, has always had a splendid ear for production and the talented group of musicians who have graced the creation of this project have done so to a positive effect. Ranging from the minimal vocal feature from Snoop Dogg, to production assistance from bass-champion Thundercat (who’s CV is staggeringly diverse) to swooning guitar picking donated by John Mayer, writing accreditation to Pharrell Williams, & a beat courtesy of J.Cole, to name a few.

The emphatic beat switch up on lead single ‘Self Care‘ serves as a good example of the magic Mac can wield, this cut supplies the liveliest and most bouncy appearance of the thirteen-strong album and features a well-executed mixture of low-key rapping with plenty of deft singing of a vastly smooth essence. The fusion works well in terms of making you really feel and relate to what Mac is relaying; evident from the title – effectively placing care of yourself at the top of your priorities, accepting your personal troubles and learning to disregard wild public perceptions about yourself (which directly addresses how the media were portraying Mac following his DUI incident).

In this sense, I personally have always felt a large degree of connection to Mac through his music, as if his music befalls my ears with a certain prowess that demands my attention, like there is something to gain from doing so and the music is therefore very worthwhile listening to: I feel like I can relate to a lot of what Mac speaks on, and simply to him as a human being. I’ve definitely expended worries about topics he has addressed a lot – his music provides a cathartic & reassuring experience – I feel he is a prime example of the power music can have in its ability to connect with someone.

Just as ‘Self Care‘ exhibits, ‘Swimming‘ features the most singing vocals yet from a Mac project, and to good effect, particularly in how well he intertwines moodier, mellow rapping with his soothing and blissful melodious approach which result in creation of harmonic symphonies aplenty. This was a feature on a few of the numbers that make up ‘The Divine Feminine‘ and has been refined well here, with layered vocals providing a full, encompassing dynamic that come off so silky and perhaps more importantly befit the lyrics they deliver very well.

The pain caused from recent break-up with ex Ariana Grande, aswell as various inner demons that plague his headspace and other life situations are conveyed through his expressive singing – ‘2009‘ for example, you can practically hear the wobble in his voice, matched with the twinkling piano keys makes this song a powerful delivery of emotion – his singing is easy to listen to, and extremely poignant.

Mac deploys some signature hazy flows atop spacey, floating laidback production for the most part, one of the greatest strengths of the album is how cohesive a project it is. The tracks flow – or swim – fluidly into one another; the project is clearly a well-thought out venture. ‘Swimming‘ feels like a long leisurely cruise down an open motorway on a Sunday afternoon; it reeks of relaxation and is so chill to listen to. In this sense the album has a quaint and mellow presence and may take a couple of listens for one to really enjoy it for this factor; this was exactly the case with myself.

Mac Miller Swimming

‘Swimming’ is out now via Warner Bros. Records and is live on all streaming services.

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